By Aaron Ortega
During Spring Break 2011, Derek Madrigal, a Brookhaven College student, made campus front page news as well as landing on other media outlets around the state. Having survived a near-fatal attack due to an act of chivalrous defense during a Spring Break party at a South Padre beach resort, Madrigal now is filing suit.
Madrigal had intervened in a dispute between his attackers and a young woman; however, this intervention quickly escalated, violently, when a punch intended for Madrigal struck the woman, referred to in the press by her first name, Gabby, instead. In her defense, Madrigal retaliated. Within minutes, picnic coolers, clenched fists and sharp objects rained down upon Madrigal as he was surrounded by as many as nine attackers.
Other than one bystander’s failed attempt to drag Madrigal to safety, no aid arrived.
Now, months later, Madrigal is suing the party sponsor, Coca-Cola Co., as well as the Isla Grand Beach Resort, for an alleged lack of adequate security. According to Courthouse News Service, Madrigal filed suit in Cameron County court, stating that the event allowed “gang members to roam freely among thousands of college-age men and women.”
According to its South Padre website, Coca-Cola Co. advertised that the event would be the biggest beach party in Texas history, with more than 10,000 expected to attend. However, Madrigal said: “There was way more than that there. It was side to side, you’re bumping into everyone.” He added, “You’d think they’d have enough security to make sure nothing goes wrong.”
Madrigal maintains a positive outlook on his future and said he intends to help ensure the safety of future Spring Break events. “I love Spring Break, and I want to keep it, but there are things that need to change,” Madrigal said. “To ensure there’s not another ‘Derek Madrigal.’”
His recovery has since taken two forms, physical and emotional. Madrigal said he sustained some mental instability, stating he doesn’t have the best memory anymore. His hands lack their former strength. His control over his body weakened.
Emotionally, Madrigal and his family and close friends face almost equal rehabilitation. Madrigal said: “It hasn’t just changed my life. I believe it’s changed a lot of people’s lives, especially my family and people that are really close to me.” Through this hardship, Madrigal said he believes he possesses the strength to endure. Madrigal said, “I believe I was there for a reason, and I’m here for a reason.”
According to Gabby, in a phone statement to Action 4 News not long after the attack, no police officers stood post. However, she said, security guards patrolled near the gates of the event and an official police presence could have deterred violent provocation, as opposed to what little security the event provided.
Gabby said: “All their badges said ‘security.’ I’m going to be afraid of the guys if it says ‘police,’ but I’m not going to be afraid of somebody that says ‘security.’ What is security going to do?”
Madrigal said police patrolled the event; however, this patrol was centrally located on the streets above. The beach below overflowed with people, he said, none of whom donned official uniforms.
According to WFAA, police officials, through help of smartphone video accounts, made arrests of the suspects later in April. These men are now identified by police as members of the Mexican Mafia, a prison gang from San Antonio.
As of press date, Coca-Cola Co. has yet to issue an official response.
Madrigal is currently a full-time student at Brookhaven, taking a 12-hour courseload. He intends to eventually transfer to a four-year university and aspires to study kinesiology, the study of the human body and movement.